How Music Moves Us On Unknown Sundays 2023

The most “unknown” thing about music is how it moves people. I’m not talking about groove, getting them to shake a tail feather, cut a hog, mosh, or even get-it-on. There are probably studies through time that could get right down to the root of cold calculation, sighting beats and rhythms to stimulate the brain and drive gyration of pelvis–or maybe even simpler–the tapping of one’s foot, which we all know leads to the most simple enjoyment of musical movement. I’m talking about how the music motivates listeners to continue listening to it, to break down and cry, to put them into a dream-like moment, or suddenly flip a light switch on-and make a deeper connection with the piece or to incite something much more demonstrative from within.

I always have to give tremendous credit to reviewers of records who have such strong emotional connections that they can explain in clever depth the context of the creative process, the details of a particular single or the entire flow of an album–either musically or lyrically. It astounds me. I know first hand how hard it is to write reviews–and avoid critical analysis, or even try to get into the musical mind of the artist(s). That’s just beyond foolish, unless you have the unbelievable experience of asking the questions ahead of time. I site Alanis Morrisette, at an unplugged show, who said how much she adores the audience’s variety of interpretations on some of her most popular songs. They all come away with different takes on the who, or the why, or the circumstance–or even the hidden meaning. In this particular moment with a fan, she was completely caught off guard by the woman’s emotional attachment to the song, which was so far away from the real reasoning behind the song, that she had this wonderful moment that showed her the vast and unpredictable “unknown” of what can move a person so.

“Your music really touches me, man.” The most cliche of adoration, dismissed as maybe a respectability that comes with little thought or depth. But, say it like this, “When your song comes on, it all comes back to me, that warm feeling I had of love and respect,” and it is a more appreciated, grateful connection. Say it this way, “It is like you understand there’s no peace, no rest…only action can give you peace,” and quite possibly we are in a different connection all together.

They are not always this wonderful. The emotional maturity of the listener(s) are always put to risk. Ask Marilyn Manson or Eminem, who have had listeners completely misunderstand metaphor and misconstrue message, slip past the sarcasm, morph their meaning–enough to fuel their unmanageable rage into ugly changes of personality, or worse–unspeakable acts against themselves or to other human beings. However, the connection was made–nowhere near the imaginable intent of the artist, but it was made. Some would argue there is purposeful intent to incite a response–a connection with dutiful purpose, which could probably be argued to infinity by the establishments of civil law and creativity. Perhaps Rage Against the Machine is a prime example of the “unknown” curiosity of possible incite versus drawing attention–and the connections brought about (although the other two examples are fine at this as well, I have a first hand story of Rage Against the Machine).

Hockey locker room blasting a song with a killer, completely original, electric guitar riff that is accompanied by a constant lyrical line, which I will apologize to the timid right now for, “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” Over and over again. Immediately, they are instructed to turn it off, as the sound of it from that section seems utterly inappropriate in so many ways–and even for the age bracket in the room (even though we all know it to be a word they know). That reaction seemed right at the time, but as I grew to understand the band, listen to more than that section, to more songs, to their albums, I made a connection that changed my initial reaction. Sure it should have still been turned off–because the connection they were making was shallow and primal, but I could have made them understand it better–explaining the significance in my ears, imploring them to make a deeper and more useful connection.

The beauty and beast in the art of music is an uncontrollable, unpredictable, often brilliant gift that I thank our species every day for, by picking up my headset, plugging in, waiting eagerly for the next connection, that emotional roller coaster creation, that timely deliverance–if you will. And, as generations change, worlds change, and emotions get frayed in the manner of survival of life–we must always appreciate, and realize the power that musical connection has over a very generous amount of the population.

Perhaps this brings us back around to the artist, sitting down creating their own emotional connection to their creation, wondering if there will be one beyond that for themselves. The time they have re-established, or the moment they have reconstructed into a musical story, while being self evident to them–they really, mostly want it to be more than that for the listener. They want so much for their creation to be timelessly appreciated, misunderstood, re-understood, and–to ‘move’ you. Music is not a waste of time, it a glorious and creative tool to show our appreciation for all that is…time. That gift of the terrifying, unpredictable, and savage “unknown” sitting before the brave artists of the world, it is the beauty and beast they must truly tame so that we can all, always enjoy for ourselves.

 

SPECIAL ARCHIVE POSTING NOTE

Why I wrote this post:  Just as a refresher to the power of sound and that emotional connection made in time.

This “Unknown Sundays” was done back in October of 2016.  I was feeling nostalgic, but also disconnected by some of what was going on in the music scene, wondering why it was not leaving an impression on me.  Was it my growing age?  It certainly could not have been my lack of openness to music, as I am tenacious when it comes to listening to all varieties from the unknown to the new critical (supposed) darlings.  Marketing at the time was driving my thought process, and I was working on radio jingles which are very much in this same concept although much more brief, yet equal in repetition if in a great rotation.  Is it connecting – is the question, and if it is — is it connecting the way it was intended and does it matter?   

When I wrote and also did the Album Listen Challenge: If This Is the End video, I had such an unbelievable emotional connection to Noah Gundersen’s new album that I just imagined that so many other (panelists included) would, too.  To this moment that video has only received six (6) views while The Barnestormers Album Listen Challenge has gone over ninety.  The panelists critiques were very nice, but they did not have that connection.  Am I discouraged by that?  No.  I can, however, relate to the artist’s soul being poured out and the potential disappointment of it not making that connection.  This website, our channel, wants to “move” people’s ears, exposing them to all kinds of musical experiences as well as draw attention to potential connections you may have missed or might be intrigued by.  The highs and lows of that connection are expected, honest, and will keep us all listening and being — “moved.”   – Mark Kuligowski  [November 12, 2023]

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